Nutrient addition experiment at the Alpine treeline site Stillberg, Switzerland

Background information

The availability of nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) is considered to be a major factor limiting growth and productivity in terrestrial ecosystems globally. This project aimed to determine whether the growth stimulation documented in previous short‐term fertilisation trials persisted in a longer‐term study (12 years) in the treeline ecotone, and whether possible negative effects of nutrient addition offset the benefits of any growth stimulation. Over the course of the 12 study years, NPK fertiliser corresponding to 15 or 30 kg N ha−1 a−1 was added annually to plots containing 30‐year‐old Larix decidua or 32‐year-old Pinus uncinata individuals with an understorey of mainly ericaceous dwarf shrubs. To quantify growth, annual shoot increments of trees and dwarf shrubs as well as radial growth increments of trees were measured. Nutrient concentrations in the soil were also measured and the foliar nutritional status of trees and dwarf shrubs was assessed.

Experimental design

Over an elevation gradient of 140 m across the treeline afforestation site Stillberg, 22 locations were chosen that covered the whole range of microenvironmental conditions (see Nutrient addition experimental design.png). Half of the blocks included European larch (L. decidua) and the other half included mountain pine (P. uncinata). Within each block, three plantation quadrats were randomly selected as experimental plots and each plot was assigned to a control (no fertilisation) or to one of two fertiliser dose treatments (15 kg and 30 kg N ha−1 a−1). Treatments were assigned randomly but confined so that the location of fertilised plots within a block was not directly above control plots to avoid nutrient input from drainage. For details about the experiment, see Möhl et al (2019).

Data description

The available datasets contain climate variables (2004-2016), nutrient isotope measurements (2010 & 2016), shrub growth measurements (2004-2016), soil parameter measurements and annual ring and shoot measurements (2004-2016). All data can be found here:

Funding Information:

This work was supported by:
  • No funding information available

Related Datasets

EnviDat Project: Treeline Research Stillberg Switzerland

Related Publications

Möhl, P., Mörsdorf, M.A., Dawes, M.A., Hagedorn, F., Bebi, P., Viglietti, D., Freppaz, M., Wipf, S., Körner, C., Thomas, F.M. and Rixen, C., 2019. Twelve years of low nutrient input stimulates growth of trees and dwarf shrubs in the treeline ecotone. Journal of Ecology, 107(2), pp.768-780.


Moehl, Patrick; Mörsdorf, Martin; Dawes, Melissa; Hagedorn, Frank; Bebi, Peter; Lechler, Lia; Frei, Esther; Rixen, Christian (2023). Nutrient addition experiment at the Alpine treeline site Stillberg, Switzerland. EnviDat. doi:10.16904/envidat.388.

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Data and Resources


Field Values
DOI 10.16904/envidat.388
Publication State Published
  • Email: patrick.moehlfoo(at) Given Name: Patrick Family Name: Moehl Affiliation: WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF
  • Email: martinmoersdorffoo(at) Given Name: Martin Family Name: Mörsdorf Affiliation: Department of Arctic and Marine Biology, The Arctic University of Norway
  • Email: melissa.dawesfoo(at) Given Name: Melissa Family Name: Dawes Affiliation: WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF
  • Email: frank.hagedornfoo(at) Given Name: Frank Family Name: Hagedorn Affiliation: Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL
  • Email: bebifoo(at) Given Name: Peter Family Name: Bebi Affiliation: WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF
  • Email: lia.lechlerfoo(at) Given Name: Lia Family Name: Lechler Affiliation: WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF
  • Email: esther.freifoo(at) ORCID: 0000-0003-1910-7900 Given Name: Esther Family Name: Frei Affiliation: Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL
  • Email: rixenfoo(at) Given Name: Christian Family Name: Rixen Affiliation: WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF
Contact Person Given Name: Christian Family Name: Rixen Email: rixenfoo(at)
Publication Publisher: EnviDat Year: 2023
  • Type: Collected Date: 2004-01-01 End Date: 2016-12-31
Version 1.0
Type dataset
General Type Dataset
Language English
Location Switzerland
Content License ODbL with Database Contents License (DbCL)    [Open Data]
Last Updated April 17, 2023, 14:47 (UTC)
Created January 31, 2023, 13:28 (UTC)